Rule 5 Draft Preview

With the weather getting colder, the Hot Stove is just starting to heat up in Milwaukee with the Winter Meetings starting this coming Monday. Thursday brings baseball’s Rule 5 Draft, in which the Brewers will be picking 16th. To be eligible to be drafted, a player that was signed at age 18 or younger must be added to his team’s 40 man roster within 5 seasons; a player signed at age 19 or older must be added within 4 seasons. That player must stay on the drafting team’s 25 man roster for the whole season or be offered back to the club he came from. Last season, the Brewers took Wei-Chung Wang from the Pirates rookie league affiliate, and he managed to stick with the team all season (with the aid of a mysterious shoulder injury causing an extended DL stint) and become Brewers property going forward. The Brewers have also previously hit on Rule 5 picks such as Jeff Bennett, Enrique Cruz, and Matt Ford. The Crew’s 40 man roster currently stands at 39, meaning they have a spot available to add a player. The Brewers still have issues with their roster that need to be addressed, so with that in mind, here are three prospects that would be fits in Milwaukee:

  1. Delino DeShields, Jr.                      2B/OF Houston Astros

DeShields was the number eight overall pick in the 2010 draft by the Houston Astros. He is 22 years old and was rated by mlb.com as the #66 prospect going into 2014. However, his prospect star lost some luster in a season in which he only hit .236 for AA Corpus Christi. DeShields has had issues on the field regarding lack of hustle and has been pulled from games. He also was hit in the face by a pitch on April 18th of this past season, causing massive swelling in his jaw. Delino has a history off the field, as well: in 2011 he was charged with three misdemeanors in regards to a drunken driving incident.

Despite all of this, however, DeShields is a very good offensive prospect. While his batting average last year was over 30 points lower than his career average, he still managed to produce an OBP of .346 and 54 stolen bases. Delino also played 114 games despite suffering a non-displaced maxillary sinus fracture when he took that 90 mph fastball to his jaw. DeShields has a great approach at the plate and shows tremendous patience. He has a career minor league walk rate of 11.3% and OBP of .362. In 497 career games, he has 241 stolen bases. He has a lot more pop than a normal speed guy, too; he has an ISO of .129 to this point and is the only minor leaguer with a 10+ home run and 100+ stolen base season (in 2012). He profiles as a strong leadoff candidate in the future, and only a year ago Jim Callis of mlb.com profiled DeShields as having a greater MLB future than this year’s NL Rookie of the Year runner-up, Billy Hamilton.

DeShields bats right handed and while he’s never been praised for his defense, he has experience at second base and all three outfield spots. If he is available when the Brewers get their turn, it would be a huge mistake not to roll the dice on him. Should he stick with the team, he would be an ideal platoon candidate with Scooter Gennett and his experience in the outfield could mean not having to waste a roster spot on Logan Schafer as a backup. Delino could provide meaningful security in center field, as incumbent Carlos Gomez is almost certain to leave via free agency in 2016 if he’s not traded this season, should the Brewers falter. DeShields could even turn into that prototypical leadoff hitter Milwaukee hasn’t had since Nori Aoki. With tantalizing tools and first round upside, the Brewers need to take Delino DeShields, Jr. if he is still available.

2. Mark Canha                                      1B/3B/OF Miami Marlins

Mark Canha is a 25 year old first baseman, drafted by Miami in the seventh round in 2010. Canha bats right handed, and had a monstrous season in AAA last year. In 537 at bats, Mark hit .303/.384/.505 with 20 home runs, good enough for a wRC+ of 131. His career minor league slash is .285/.375/.484 and he has an ISO of .189 over five seasons, showing his big 2014 wasn’t a fluke. He is a patient hitter with a career walk rate of 11.3%, something that is sorely lacking with the current Brewers team. Canha is more of a hit first prospect with middling defensive marks, but he has played third base and the corner outfield slots in addition to first. Mark would make sense for the Brewers as a right handed complement to platoon with and provide insurance for Adam Lind at first, being that Lind has a career .212/.257/.331 line against lefties and played only 96 games last year while dealing with a back issue. Canha could also back up Aramis Ramirez at third and even play the corner outfield in a pinch. Mark Canha could be a valuable addition to the Brewers in 2015.

3. Andrew Mckirihan                           LHP Chicago Cubs

Andrew Mckirihan was a 21st round pick in 2011 and is 24 years old. He underwent elbow reconstruction in 2012, but he hasn’t het that slow him down. As a reliever, he has a career 2.16 ERA in 121 innings pitched. He throws a fastball that runs between 94-96 mph and mixes in a curveball and cutter. He sports a nifty 1.08 WHIP and 2.6 BB/9, while striking out a strong 9.52 per 9 innings pitched (though that number tailed off slightly in 2014). What really sets Mckirihan apart is his 0.37 HR/9 mark. He in fact went all of a limited 2012 and 2013 without allowing a single home run in 39 innings over that period, and gave up only four home runs in 65 innings between high A and AA last year. With Zach Duke signing with the White Sox (for an exorbitant sum), Tom Gorzelanny becoming a free agent, and Wei-Chung Wang being sent back to the minors and groomed as a starter, the Brewers only have Will Smith as a lefty relief option with major league experience on their 40 man roster (recently added Michael Strong has only pitched one game above A level). With Doug Melvin recently alluding to the possibility of a closer by committee type situation where Will Smith could be pitching the ninth inning on occasion, adding another lefty in the pen to pair with Smith should be a high priority. Power throwing lefty Andrew Mckirihan could be an excellent candidate to slide into that role if the Brewers select him.

With the changes to the Rule 5 Draft in 2007 extending the time each team has before they need to protect players, it has become increasingly difficult to find true difference makers through this process. The three players highlighted, however, would have ample opportunity not only to make the team in 2015, but to be significant contributors to the Brewers. For a team with roster needs, adding any one of the trio of Delino DeShields, Jr., Mark Canha, and Andrew Mckirihan would be a big step towards shoring up the depth they need to contend next season.

Statistics Courtesy of Baseball Reference, Fangraphs, and the Baseball Cube

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